Five great books set in Mexico

18th June 2018

Five great books set in Mexico – the country is the latest destination in our ‘Five great books set in…’ series.

Five great books set in MexicoThis exotic Central American country has borders with the USA to the north, Guatemala and Belize to the south-east, and is surrounded by the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean. With an estimated population of over 120 million, it has a strong economy and a rich culture and history. It also has an interesting artistic and literary heritage.

Their football team isn’t bad either. This post is a timely celebration of Mexico beating holders Germany in the 2018 World Cup. Viva Mexico!

All these books are set firmly in this vibrant country, and would be the perfect way to embrace Mexico, whether on holiday there or for a spot of vicarious literary wanderlust from your armchair at home.

1. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The number one bestseller in Mexico and America for almost two years, and subsequently a bestseller around the world, Like Water For Chocolate is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes.

A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her.

For the next twenty-two years Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.

2. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

During a vicious persecution of the clergy in Mexico, a worldly priest, the ‘whisky priest’, is on the run.

With the police closing in, his routes of escape are being shut off, his chances getting fewer. But compassion and humanity force him along the road to his destiny, reluctant to abandon those who need him, and those he cares for.

3. La Frontera by Sam Hawken

In La Frontera, Sam Hawken illuminates the darkest sides of the illegal migration issue, the cost in human life and dignity for the border crossers and the thin line of defenders who stand against the tide on the American side.

Ana Torres is a Texas Ranger assigned to a dusty outpost to protect the border. When she discovers the body of a dead crosser, the stage is set for an investigation and a confrontation in the nighttime desert.

Luis González lives on the Mexican side, helping those who seek a better life in the north while looking for peace in his own way.

Marisol Herrera, a border crosser, braves hardship and dangers on her journey from the high mountains of El Salvador to the sun-blasted flats of the Mexico/Texas border. She is alone, chasing a dream, but threatened by the realities of la frontera.

The stories of these three will intersect in the badlands of Texas. There will be death and pain and prices paid along the banks of the Rio Grande.

4. Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

Every year the three Reyes sons and their families drive south from Chicago via Route 66 to the home of the Awful Grandmother and the Little Grandfather on Destiny Street in Mexico City.

From the back seat of her father’s red Chevy station-wagon, our storyteller Lala loves to witness the crossover from endless Texas to flamboyant Mexico, the switch from truck stop donuts to street vendors with corn on the cob, the smell of hot tortillas and the sting of roasting chillies in the throat and eyes.

The youngest of many cousins, Lala is also the most curious. Did the Little Grandfather really lose those very ribs in a terrible battle? And why is the Awful Grandmother’s special treasure, her caramelo silk shawl, the colour of burnt milk candy, still unfinished ? As Lala grows older she learns the colourful tales and ‘healthy lies’ behind the official family legends.

Cisneros is a great story teller, a tantalizing conjurer of tastes and atmospheres – and the creator of characters who stomp and dance off the page into your heart.

5. Bandit Roads by Richard Grant

There are many ways to die in the Sierra Madre, a notorious nine-hundred-mile mountain range in northern Mexico where AK-47s are fetish objects, the law is almost non-existent and power lies in the hands of brutal drug mafias. Thousands of tons of opium and marijuana are produced there every year.

Richard Grant thought it would be a good idea to travel the length of the Sierra Madre and write a book about it. He was warned before he left that he would be killed. But driven by what he calls ‘an unfortunate fascination’ for this mysterious region, Grant sets off anyway.

In a remarkable piece of investigative writing, he evokes a sinister, surreal landscape of lonely mesas, canyons sometimes deeper than the Grand Canyon, hostile villages and an outlaw culture where homicide is the most common cause of death and grandmothers sell cocaine.

Finally his luck runs out and he finds himself fleeing for his life, pursued by men who would murder a stranger in their territory ‘to please the trigger finger’.

Andrew for the TripFiction Team

Which titles would you add to this list? Any you would like to add to our database?. Please leave your thoughts in the Comments box below.

Other posts in our ‘Five great books set in…’ series:

Five great books set in Naples

Five great books set in Dublin

Five great books set in Dubai

Five great books set in Portugal

Five great books set in San Francisco

Five great books set in Guernsey

And our ‘Ten great books set in…’ series includes:

Ten great books set in Paris

Ten great books set in New York

Ten great books set in London

Ten great books set in Rome

Ten great books set in Berlin

Ten great books set in Russia

Ten great books set in Spain

Ten great books set in Amsterdam

Ten great books set in Thailand

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And for many more books set in the country, do access the TripFiction database!

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